Saturday, 22 February 2014

Interpreting "The castle"

Still reading "The castle" (Franz Kafka).
With Kafka in mind, I see the conflict in the book as arising from K's job and position, in the sense that K is stuck between the wish to do his job as a land surveyor, for which he comes to the village, and accepting the job given to him as a janitor, which he doesn't like, to earn a living. He doesn't want to give up but, unsatisfied with his situation, always tries in various ways to change it in order to get back to what he wants to do, to no avail. And everything is worse because people don't understand him and even Frieda doesn't understand him. That doesn't sound much different from Kafka's life, him being a lawyer in an insurance company and hating his job and believing that all he was was literature.
Then, having pushed Kafka out of my mind, I realise that even though, to the best of my knowledge, nothing indicates that K cannot leave the village and return to his hometown, K in some sense very much resembles people in exile, especially political refugees. Refugees don't have the immigrants' freedom to choose where to go and when or to go back to their countries, and in the new countries that they may or may not like, on the 1 hand feel like outsiders and suffer from their ambiguous status of belonging to no place, on the other hand may be forced to take a job much below their skills and abilities with some hope but very little chance to go back to the better jobs they once had in their countries. Similarly, K comes to the village through some misunderstanding as a land surveyor, gets kicked around, and becomes a school janitor. Most remarkably, he's an outsider, not only because he comes from another place, but also because people in the village have different customs, mindsets, ways of thinking, habits, and people treat him as an alien, even a burden, a troublemaker.

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